SEOUL, Nov. 2 (Reuters) – A North Korean ballistic missile landed less than 60 kilometers off the coast of South Korea on Wednesday, the first time an apparent test had landed near the waters of the South, which led to airstrikes warnings, officials said.
The missile was one of three short-range ballistic missiles fired into the sea from North Korea’s Wonsan coastal area, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.
The JCS said at least one of the missiles landed 16 miles (26 kilometers) south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a disputed inter-Korean maritime border. The missile landed 57 kilometers from the South Korean city of Sokcho, on the east coast, and 167 kilometers from Ulleung, where airstrike warnings were issued.
“We heard the siren around 8:55 am and we all went inside the building to the evacuation area in the basement,” an official from Ulleung province told Reuters. “We stayed there until we surfaced around 9:15 a.m. after hearing that the projectile had fallen into the high seas.”
A resident of the southern part of the island said he had not received any warnings.
The launches came just hours after Pyongyang demanded that the United States and South Korea stop large-scale military exercises, saying such “military indiscretion and provocation can no longer be tolerated”.
A South Korean military spokesman said authorities were analyzing the launches to see if the missiles’ flight paths were intentional or if one had gone off course.
It was the first time a North Korean ballistic missile had landed near South Korean waters, JCS said.
“Our military can never tolerate this kind of provocative actions by North Korea and will respond strictly and decisively in close cooperation between South Korea and the US,” JCS said in a press release.
“It is highly unusual and particularly provocative for North Korea to test Z or SE missiles in the Baltic Sea and toward South Korean territory,” Joseph Dempsey, a defense researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, wrote in a statement. an online mail.
On Monday, the United States and South Korea began Vigilant Storm, one of their largest combined military air exercises, with hundreds of warplanes from both sides carrying out 24-hour feint strikes. read more
North Korea has fired a record number of missiles this year and has said a recent spate of launches was in response to Allied exercises.
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the government believed at least two ballistic missiles have been launched from North Korea, one flying east and another heading southeast.
“North Korea has repeatedly launched missiles at an unprecedented rate, in new ways we have not seen before,” Hamada told reporters in Tokyo on Wednesday morning.
“These actions threaten the peace and stability of Japan, the wider region and the wider international community, and are completely unacceptable,” he added.
Japan has filed a complaint and protested through diplomatic channels in Beijing, he said.
Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi, Choonsik Yoo and Josh Smith; Additional coverage by David Brunnstrom in Washington and Sakura Murakami in Tokyo; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Gerry Doyle
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